Car-crime network smashed as gang are jailed

A SPRAWLING criminal network which targeted high-powered cars worth an estimated £6m and brought misery to victims across the country has been smashed by detectives in Yorkshire.

Burglars broke into houses across the region and beyond, stealing the keys to expensive cars which were then sold with false logbooks to unsuspecting buyers willing to part with thousands of pounds for bargains that proved too good to be true.

The enterprise, which involved career criminals from West and South Yorkshire, was only stopped after a crack team of detectives from the region's four police forces was set up to conduct a complex investigation which uncovered rounds of ammunition and more than 100,000 in cash.

Fourteen gang members have been given jail sentences totalling more than 50 years for their role in the conspiracy, which is thought to be one of the largest car crime operations ever seen in Yorkshire.

Two members of the gang were also convicted of fraud and money laundering in relation to an unrelated scam which conned a 67-year-old man out of 225,000.

Police said Nevada Smith, 29, and Arthur Gaskin, 23, who took the money for unsolicited minor building work to the man's Ilkley home, had "clearly targeted" him because he was vulnerable.

The gang raided homes across Yorkshire and Lancashire, taking in large cities like Leeds and Bradford but also smaller towns including Ilkley, Goole, Cleckheaton and Boston Spa.

Among the victims was Barbara Bramhill, whose Audi A4 Quattro was stolen from the driveway of her home in Wilberfoss, York, on September 26 last year.

The car, which she had bought for 26,000, was sold for about 8,000 to a Hertfordshire man who went to collect it from a car park at a motorway service station, only to lose his money when he found out it was stolen.

Mrs Bramhill said it was "awful" to think that burglars had broken into her house to steal the keys while she was asleep upstairs.

"We have fitted an alarm system now because I wasn't happy going downstairs on my own."

Police said a team of Bradford burglars, led by Matthew Holmes, would steal high-value cars "to order" before selling them to Smith, who would advertise them for sale, usually through Auto Trader.

Smith used cloned registration documents supplied by a signwriting business run by Gary Swinden, who shared a home in Field Drive, Barnsley, with co-conspirator Victoria Laws.

Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Atkinson, who led the investigation, said she believed the gang had run an "extremely lucrative business" worth up to 6m and a financial investigation was under way to recoup the money.

The gang members were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after pleading guilty to offences including conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

Smith, of Pony Paddocks, Toll Bar, Doncaster, and Gaskin, of Smithies Lane, Barnsley, were given jail terms totalling 11 and seven years respectively for the car conspiracy and the Ilkley scam.

Swinden, 52, was jailed for seven years and Laws, 41, was given a suspended sentence and made to do 200 hours' unpaid work.

Brothers Dean and John Doyle, aged 29 and 24, both of Brendon Walk, Bradford, and Anthony Jackson, 29, of Hyde Park Road, Leeds, were each sentenced to six years in prison.

Holmes, 29, of Thorpe Edge, Bradford, was jailed for five years and Nicholas Tidswell, 23, of Knowles Lane, Bradford, got five and a half years.

Five other members of the conspiracy were given jail terms ranging from 18 months to four years.